more than one voice

Thursday, August 2, 2012

navel gazing

What a bad blogger I am - I can't believe that it's been a month since my last post.  After returning from our holiday, which was bliss - long days of doing nothing, sitting on the beach and contemplating the gift of silence - things have been pretty hectic. I do love the little tricks and contradictions life throws at us.

I received an order to paint 15 origianl pictures on immediate return from the beach.  Which I managed to do in two weeks - phew it really felt like a job by the end.  I remember reading a quote by a famous artist once, who said art is often like a job, sometimes you have to just plug at it even when you don't feel in the mood. 

Before we went on holiday I applied to do two shows in September, one is a three day show and the other a four day show.  They both happen at the same time.  Quess what, I got accepted to do both. Thank goodness I have two daughters who are willing to help me.  I've also been very lucky to find an amazing young lady to help me make up my pictures. 

I'm itching to redesign my blog and share all sorts of new ideas that I thought about when I was sitting at the beach, contemplating my navel.  Oh well, one day at a time I quess.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

winter beach - time to breathe

I suggest everyone - just relax she said with a big sigh

Just a quick post - we are off on our annual winter beach holiday.  Although the weather has been so mild, it feels more like our annual summer holiday.  Yesterday when I got home Jess was sitting in a garden chair sunning herself in her new bikini!

I've been reading Betty Edward's book 'Drawing on the right side of the brain' - so thats going to be my reading and practice for the next few days. I feel quiet 'anxious' that I'm not that good at drawing and feel it is something I need to work on.  I've also packed a Thomas Merton journal and a Paulo Coelho - for a bit of quiet reading and contemplation. 

All the washings been done, the house is relatively tidy - Colin has just gone to collect the house sitter - ah big sigh - so we are all set to leave - I hope.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

creativity as humor

no need to take life so seriously - no one gets out alive

I like to sneak in bits of humor throughout my day.  I battle to stay serious for too long, I like being silly.  I have been known to dance in the office much to the surprise and delight of my colleagues – who after awhile join in.  I tired teaching once but was hopeless as I just joked with the kids all the time and discipline went right out the window.

Humor is simply wonderful, it can help in awkward situations and lightens up a gloomy mood.  I don’t tell jokes – my delivery sucks but I like the pace of quick wit and reciprocal banter.  I’m lucky that my partner has a good sense of humor and the kids are pretty quick witted as well.  Katie has the most wonderful dry sense of humor, she delivers with a dead pan face and says some side splitting things with a dose of unbelievable wisdom – she is an old soul for sure.  Jess is a dramatic clown, vociferous and animated, a complete nut in more ways then one.

katie having a one man rugby supporters party

colin - is a magpie he is always finding strange things and bringing them home - the glasses were his find on this particular day.

Life can be serious and hard, and pretty crappy at times but thank goodness for the craziness that the universe has bestowed upon me and my family.  I wonder if humor could be considered a creative process.  I think so – what do you think?
and marley, muddy dog on clean washing
 the kids thought this was very funny

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

feet on the floor and breath

this I know for sure

There are many different techniques of meditation that are taught both in secular situations, for example in a psychologist’s office to help someone who is very stressed, to the Buddhist meditations or contemplative prayer, that are taught as part of a religious practice.  Basically, it all boils down to being able to get the mind to a place of space in which the thoughts are observed and an awareness of the present moment becomes the focus.  Practicing meditation can led to a deeper spiritually awareness and a sense of higher consciousness.  Just as there are many different techniques, there are many different reasons why someone might decide to practice meditation.

One thing I know for sure is that when I practice meditation, I can feel the difference in my life.  I am more focused, more relaxed, at peace with what is. At the moment I feel quite frustrated, I enjoy some aspects of my job but I'm also bored very often and don't have enough challenges.  I have the beginnings of a great art/home based business but  don't have the time to pursue it because I have to work. I have found that instead of doing what I know works, focusing, being quiet, I try every trick in the book to distract my poor mind, so that I don't have a free minute to sit quietly.  Then I get more frustrated - can I scream now?

I know that I have to put things into perspective, allow more time to just be with what is for now.  The time will come when things will be less hectic and there will be time to focus on what I really love to do - create and make art. Feet on the floor and breath, Clare - breath.

Friday, June 8, 2012

dreaming in words

poetry dress I made a few years ago - 'I will fly to the sun'

Some months ago Jess and I spent a weekend at a dream retreat, where we were encouraged to use our dreams to write poetry.  We had a chance to talk about many different things, she shared how her spirituality has changed and how she sees things differently now that she is getting older. It was good to have the time away, time to reflect on where we were and to talk without the interruptions that always seem to be there at home. Jess has had a hard time over the last few years, battling with depression and a mood disorder but things are getting better for her and it was good to be able to put things into perspective.

It was also good to put pen to paper and write poetry again - something I have not done for a very long time.  It felt good to create with words, to use them like paint to create images and emotions, to play with dancing script on a page.

Just as I was getting all poetic about life, I discovered to my horror that my daughter doesn't like poetry. She was kind enough to tell me on the last day of the retreat. Oh well, at least she liked the food and the DMCs that we had. LOL

I have always loved poetry. I find it fascinating how people can take simple words and weave them into magic, creating alchemical with language.

Some of my favorite poets are Mary Oliver, Raine Marie Rilke and Antjie Krog - a South African poet.  I would love to know what poets you like as I’m always looking to ‘discover’ more hidden treasures.

I love the blog 'Willow Manor' – where the poet Tess Kincaid shares her poetry – it’s a blog filled with all sorts of treats not just poetry.

first sign of life - Antje Krog
you moved in me today
perhaps you turned
or adjusted a limb in the dark
you were not urgent
nor rowdy
just inescapably here
with my hand across my abdomen
I wanted to hold you in words
how you look
how you sound
how I am going to utter you
but you drifted wordlessly in placenta

like a poem you began without my knowing
a couplng of image and sound
with an umbilical cord to life veined through my blood
after weeks swollen into a gesture of word an vertebrae
a verse trembling this morning into wanting to be written

caught in a tender vortex of sun
my hairbrush forgotten in my hand
I was suddendly utterly lonely in astonishment
about this omen
of a yet unwritten, but most awe-inspiring poem

Bone - Mary Oliver - 
Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something
for the ear bone

is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer's head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long
and thought: the soul
might be like this
so hard, so necessary

yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn't see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don't we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it

lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.

from Why I Wake Early (2004)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

paradox of aging

Jess, my eldest daughter asked me the other day if it seemed like time had flown from 20 (her age) to 45 (my age). This got me thinking about how to reply to this question. 

Jess (20) and Clare (45) - what is a number?

When I work at the shop I look around at all the young moms with there little children, and realize just how fast time has gone.  It seems like only yesterday that I was that young mom with my two small girls, now they are all grown. 

I look at those young moms and see something on their faces - an assurance, a confidence, I don’t want to call it arrogance, it’s hard to explain exactly what I mean. But I know that I felt that way too a few years ago, before the last sparks of youth left me forever.  I was confident then that I had enough time to achieve all the things I thought I was capable of achieving – even though I didn’t really have a plan. Life seemed easier, infinite, like it would go on forever, but now when I look in the mirror I see that youth has left my face and I am well and truly into middle age.

From that perspective – my answer to Jess’s question would be yes, life has gone very fast.

But then when I sit and contemplate life and think about the many experiences I have had, then I think my answer would be – no. It would seem that life is a bit of a paradox – what a surprise!

I must admit that I have a nostalgic pang for my youth.  I sometimes wish I could go back and redo, take more time to appreciate being young, to be more present in my life instead of always wishing for tomorrow to arrive.

I think my final answer to Jess would be:  be present in your life, be mindful and appreciate each day.  I know that when I look back those are the days that I remember the most, the days that I was fully present are my happy days, and that is really what counts.

hallo - Kate (15)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I spent the weekend at a wonderful place called – Solitude.  A place that fills the spirit with quietness and contemplation, a place that allows you to step out of your busy life and just be for awhile.  It asks nothing of you except to be still and in return you are given the gift of reconnection.

This weekends retreat reflected on the words of the writer and monk Thomas Merton. His words are beautiful, challenging, and reflective and call the reader to be present.  He challenges you to slow down and listen to the sounds of nature, to hear the wind and the birds and to ultimately hear the spirit of God.  You are called to examine your authenticity.

 Merton says, ‘a tree gives glory to God by being a tree,’   for in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him.  It ‘consents,’ so to speak, to His creative love.  It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct form the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. (Thomas Merton - new seeds of contemplation)

It was a weekend that also challenged us to consider our footprint on this planet, to realize that it is us that need to heal, more so than our earth.  It is us that have to change our thoughts, our very consciousness if our planet is to survive.  We need to slow down, to be still, and to honor our earth and our place in it, to understand our interconnection to all things.

When I returned home on Sunday evening I was filled with peace and a sense of being, a contentment for where I am at present.  I was absolutely blown away with the synchronicity of the gift my husband presented me – while sorting out some books for the shop on Sunday afternoon, he had come across seven books of Thomas Merton’s journals…!    

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

my dream business

As I continue to develop my art business I've been busy with all sorts of different things. I've set up a website -Clare Dreams. It's been fun to do, although I have been driving myself mad with the perfection bug.  I've also had fun designing my logo and learning how to naviagate around photoshop - I'm not really sure why photoshop is so complicated! Once you get the hang of it it can be quite additive - hence the bags under my eyes from late nights.

I've joined a wonderful on-line shop for arts and crafts in SA called Heart Emporium, it's similar to etsy I suppose.  I'm not sure how well etsy works in SA or even if we have it here?  I've been suprised at how many sales I've had through the site.

It's been a challenge keeping my own shop stocked with pictures. The shop is doing well, which is wonderful considering the hard economic times we are in at the moment. Through my shop I've managed to get a few wholesale orders from other shops. I put out lots of business cards, and signs saying I do wholesale orders - which seems to have worked well. 

It's fun, lots of hard work (which I think I might have mentioned before I'm not too keen on), but the results are worth it.  There is something special about selling one of your own creations, it always makes me want to giggle when someone buys one of my pictures, the weird thing is I really don't know why!

Heres to lots of giggling!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

past hurts

she thought for a long time about how to be happy - but decided
that maybe she was happy already

Isn’t it amazing that just when you think you have dealt with an issue in your life then wham it seems to rear its head and wag its finger in your face?

This year has turned out to be difficult.  It has been a busy year, filled with too many things to do and not enough time.  Somewhere in the hazy of rushing around, I’ve patted myself on the back for over coming many of the issues that have hampered me and held me back most of my life.  These issues are the usual ones, self esteem, family relationship issues etc.  I’ve done the work and slowly put things into perspective, become more aware, learnt to put distant between myself and the issues and I believe that I have been able to move on.

Then things happen, and you are right back where you started, or are you?  I’m not sure.  I was distressed about this but then released that I have changed, sometimes the old hurts do come back but mostly it is because others are still where they have always been.  Yes, the same old stuff can hurt but somehow I seem to have more resilience, more grit maybe even more maturity – I hope.  It is easier to pick myself up, shack off the dust and begin again.  I guess the old hurts will always hurt but maybe just not in the same way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

the child in me

I've been doing quiet a bit of thinking about how to create a 'creative business', a business that is more than just my pictures but that emcompasses all my talents and experiences gathered over the years.  I've made a fairly good start this year, all the art products I've made have been selling like hot cakes. Boy, and do I get a kick out of selling my stuff.  It always makes me want to giggle when I sell one of my pictures, I have no idea why it's so funny, but there you are - as my kids say, 'mom you're weird'.

As a way to try and figure it all out, I've been doing a bit of journalling and have been suprised at what has surfaced.  I've been allowing the writing to take over, to tell the story and to allow the unconscious to speak.  What has been amazing in this process, is how different images have surfaced as I write. 

The other day I had this very distinct image of myself as a child.  I was excited about all the possiblities of things that I wanted to make. I can remember paging through a 1970s child's craft book and marking off all the projects I wanted to try.  I could feel the excitment as I was writing this all down, I could feel it in my body like it was yesterday. 

Then the feeling changed, suddenly all the excitement was replaced with a sense of guilt and shame.  I was puzzled by this change in emotion and pace, where did this come from.  I'm not sure I will ever get the answer, it could have been going to school and comparing myself to others, or it could have been an unkind word spoken by a teacher, I really don't know.  What I do know is that somewhere, somehow I believed that being creative wasn't the thing to do and I stuffed down the urge to be creative - I tried to snuff it out and spent many years angry with myself and the world. 

Many many years later, I sit here and have come full circle - I know that I have to create, that I am a creative being and that it is absolutely the right thing for me to do. Phew - what a relief.

From that child inside me I make this plea -

Please -  let us remember that when a child shows a creative spark that we must encourage it, never put it down or dismiss it, it could just be what saves that child

Monday, March 19, 2012

it is what it is

taking the easy way out?

I have a quote I use on my pictures – 'life is simple it’s just not easy'.  I believe that life is simple, that the simple answers normally turn out to be the correct ones.  How you get to the answers might not be easy.  I think that sometimes we complicate life; we expect that things should be hard and difficult, but often this is not the case.  Sometimes, if we just move away from a problem or ask a different question, and stop expecting to have the answer immediately we can be surprised when the answer softly seems to arrive.

I’m really trying hard to stop holding onto things too tightly, expecting to know all the answers, and irritating myself by having to have everything sorted out.  I’m trying to loosen my grip and to be happy with what is. 

“It is what it is”, has become my mom’s new motto and I think I might just pinch it from her – what do you think?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

listen to this

there's something in my hair

A few years ago, when I was still studying I worked as a volunteer family counselor. Our main task was to teach families the importance of communication.  When we introduced this into the counseling sessions, people always got excited as they were hoping that we would teach them how to get people to hear them better.  But they were always disappointed when we began with – the importance of listening.

Listening is probably the hardest part of communication. Do we really listen to others; do we hear the unspoken as well as the spoken?  Who really has time for this, the world is too busy, and people are too full of their own importance, trying too hard to get their own point across.  We have forgotten to listen, to truly listen.  What a wonderful gift it is when someone listens to you, gives you that space to speak your words and feelings. I know that I need to be reminded of this! 

I think it’s also important that we listen to ourselves, find time to listen to what we are saying all day long to others and of course what are we saying to ourselves. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

catching the monkey

catching monkeys

In the matter of two days I heard this term used about five times, from five different sources.  It made me think, is something trying to tell me something?  

Oh, what was it that I kept on hearing – the term ‘monkey mind’.

Monkey mind is a Buddhist, term meaning unsettled, restless, inconstant, confused, indecisive and my favorite uncontrollable.  It is those thoughts that run around in your head like an ADHD child on a sugar high.  

Boy, and has my old mind been a monkey lately, jumping around, with hardly a single still thought in sight.  I have practiced meditation in the past, I’ve watched my thoughts without having an attachment to them, but somehow life has just got too busy and all that peace has evaporated.  I do hope that I can calm the monkey inside my head; it seems to be less of a nuisance when I can put a paint brush in my hand.  Oh dear, there it goes again – excuse me I need to see if I can catch it..........

Sunday, March 4, 2012

what to do with a dream

missing silence

What do you do with the dreams you have every night? When you go into that mysterious place where reality is distorted, where things aren’t quite what they are in waking reality.

Do you have recurring dreams?  Do you have themes that seem to play out night after night teasing you with just a hint of meaning?

Sometimes I can hardly wait to go to sleep at night, not just because I’m tired, but because I just love dreaming. I’m often amazed at the dreams I have, the insights that my dreams give into my unconscious mind, the unraveling of deep seated thoughts. There are things in my head that seem to lie undiscovered until I journey into my dream world.   

I always try to pay attention to my dreams. On waking just before I’m fully conscious I slowly replay the night dreams, storing them in my conscious mind where I will think about them later that day.  Throughout the day I allow my dreams to gently nudge me, to mix with my waking world, it seems that this helps me to discover their secrets.  And what do I do with my dreams – I make art of course.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

quirky designs

Just a quick pop in to say hi, and share these pictures with you.  Our neighbour at the book shop is Guy Sterling, a quirky fun loving chap with an infectious laugh.  He makes the most amazing things out of scrap metal, welding and bending, twisting and hammering until he has created art out of what was once a pile of scrap.  Every weekend when I work at the shop, the first thing I do is pop over for a visit.  I asked Guy if I could take some pics and post them on my blog - I think he wants to start a blog too!

Can you see the mielies in the background - there is a maze in the maize. The other day a young man borrowed a table and two chairs from Sterling and took them into the middle of the maze, and suprised his girlfriend with a marriage proposal.

Finally a few pictures of my art in the shop.

......and how it all fits in

Thursday, February 16, 2012


One of the things I love about living in South Africa is that I can go barefoot almost year round.  Shoes constrict my feet, and I never seem to find shoes that are comfortable no matter what type of shoes I buy, and I have very normal feet.  The feeling of the hard ground under my feet, the connection to the earth, the way I can stretch out my toes, is one of the small luxuries of life.

I’m lucky that I work in a fairly relaxed environment and can walk around with no shoes on if I wish. We have a young Italian researcher working with us and even she has kick-off her shoes.

When my sister and I were kids we visited our family in the UK and got into big trouble when we ran outside to play in the snow – you guessed it without shoes.  In our defense it was the first time we had ever seen snow.

South African history is full of stories of barefoot people. At the top of the Voortrekker Pass, there is a monument to a woman who walked barefoot over the Drakensberg.  After the Voortrekkers entered Natal, which was then a British Colony a number of trekkers decided to return to the Free State.  Susanna Smit declared that she would rather walk barefoot back over the Berg than live in Natal under British rule; she then proceeded to do just that.

I was intrigued to see that there is a society for barefoot living –I love their slogan – set your feet free and your mind will follow. To that I can say a big yes, when those shoes come off; my mind and heart are set free. There is absolutely no way I could never paint with shoes no!
I'll take my freedom where ever I can find it, she said with a little twinkle in her eye

Friday, January 27, 2012

fitting it all in


It seems as if I am really being challenged by my 2012 word.  - Fitting - Trying, to fit in all the new things that 2012 holds for me and my family.  It feels as if the year started with such a rushed pace.  Working during the week and then on weekends,  quite an adjustment for a former lazy people.  I have to admit that I'm not one of those people that thrives on pressure and lots of work.  I prefer lots of empty time and space, with a little work thrown in now and again. 

I have managed to negotiate two afternoons off a week, at my 'day' job. But - have been promoted, so have much more responsibility, which is okay because I was bored last year. Did I just say bored?  I enjoy my job and feel that it is making a positive contribution to the poor and marginalized rural women in SA.  The organisation I work for trains mostly rural women to start savings and credit groups, which then gives them access to small loans. As the groups generate their own capital, repayment of loans is almost 100%.  It is a far better model than the old micro-finance models and we hear wonderful stories almost everyday of how the groups are changing peoples lives in the rural areas.

Our book shop is doing well, and it is fun to be running our own business again.  I have been working hard at night making pictures and magnets from my art.  I was thinking last night that I must share how I make my pics and magnets, as it is a really nice way to sell your art and you get to keep the originals.

Fitting it all in - mmm and I was rather hoping the word would be more about spending time contemplating the philosophical concepts of fitting into my soul and life, not how to fit in 100 things to do in one day.  Just shows you why it's not a good idea to have too many preconceived ideas -  about anything!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


As I look ahead and plan for 2012 I realize that my goals, dreams, hopes and aspirations are broken down into two distinct categories – those that are tangible, and then those that are intangible.

On the one hand, I want to continue developing a successful creative art business, where I can share my art and hopefully convey a positive message through it.  I have lots of plans for things I want to make using my art, and I have several ideas for how I can market my art, and different venues where I can sell my products. I want to continue learning about art, to stretch and grow.  I realize the importance of practice and commitment to art, the business of getting down and doing.

Then there are those intangible aspirations. Things that I feel, things that I still don’t quite have the words to describe.  I have a sense of needing to create more space in my life with less in it.  I need to slow down and be content to sit – just to sit.

The two seem so far apart, so different but I have a feeling that one can not be without the other, that both aspects are needed to create a balance. I suppose it is about ‘fitting’ the two together.

I would like to share this extract from a beautiful poem written by a blind lady, Virginia Adair, who had her first poetry book ‘Ants on Melon’ published at the age of eighty-three.

My lines hold fast
And do not break
With drawing life from the cold sea
I do this for my hunger’s sake.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


she found that things fitted much better

I've been a bit slow in getting my thoughts together, this new year rushed upon me before I was ready.  I always like to do a past year review and then like to plan ahead for the coming year.
I’ve finally picked my word for 2012, something that I’ve never done before.  It felt like a good place to start, it sums up how I was beginning to feel at the end of 2011 and gives me hope for 2012.

My word is ‘FITTING’ – a strange word to pick – I suppose. 

This is how it came to me:

As the noise of New Year celebrations woke me from sleep I saw a tower and in front of the tower I saw a completed jigsaw puzzle.  I didn’t immediately get the word; I had to let the image swim around in my head for awhile.  After I completed this painting the word slowly emerged, and seemed to resonant with how I have been feeling.  I find that I’m fitting into my skin better, that I’m more content and feel a better fit with my life – for the first time ever.  So it seems to be the perfect fit – pardon the pun.

Katie loves to sneak into my studio and paint when I'm out - it makes me happy


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

it's 2012

Happy New Year  - I hope that 2012 is a wonderful year for everyone.  There is something so magical about saying 2012, do you feel it or is it just me?

Finally - here is Huddy's Books

Colin is a teacher and the kids have always called him Mr Huddy - so it was an easy choice for the name.  
Can you spy Mr Huddy in the corner with the top hat on?

The shop is situated at a place called 'Piggly Wiggly' and this is the coffee shop / farm stall at the 'village'

Our neighbors - Sterling Wrought Iron - he makes the most amazing stuff - I will definitely post lots of pictures of this artists work.

Some more shops - it's all very new

The putt putt course - in the making

At the end of 2011 I was quiet frazzled with all the preparations for opening our book shop.  We opened the shop on the 16th of December, which is the Day of Reconciliation in SA.  It has been a huge success, with people loving our collection of books. The setting is amazing, so beautiful and peaceful.  We went on a frantic buying spree last week preparing to stock up before we have to return to work.

The fun part - packing out all the books and seeing all the treasures we have collected over the last few months

looking very bare

Colin trying to work out where it put the hooks on the book shelves - not fun

I grabbed a little corner for my art and I couldn't believe the response. (but can you believe it I didn't take any photos!)  I sold out! I was nervous about putting my art out for sale, you know all that, what will people think, is it good enough to be displayed and so on.  I'm really encourage and have many plans for the year ahead to develop my art into a small business.  Time of course is a bit of a problem, but I'm hoping that I can cut down my hours at work to spend more time on my art 'business'and to help Colin with the book shop.  It looks like it's going to a good (great) year.